How to Identify Stress Fracture of the Foot
Did you know that stress fracture is common for people who play high impact sports? The crack in the bone is usually the result of repetitive running or jumping causing pain in the feet or legs. Around 25% of stress fractures occur at the bones of the instep of the feet. What are the stress fracture foot symptoms and the risk factors that can make it worse?
Obviously the most common symptom of stress fracture of the foot is the pain caused by the cracked bone. Normally, you would feel the pain when you near the end of your activity and steadily eases as you rest. When the pain is ignored, there is a possibility that it can continue well beyond after the physical activity and possibly even after resting.
Pain is more commonly felt at night and can become worse when you engage in activities that put additional weight or stress on your feet. Other symptoms that can be associated with a stress fracture of the foot are:
- Persistent pain even with minimal activity;
- Localized swelling at the place where the fracture occurred;
- The area of injury can be tender to the touch;
- Pain can be relieved as you take a rest;
- Pain can be felt and intensify even with normal activities like walking; and
- Possible bruising around the injured area.
It is essential to be aware of the risk factors that can cause or aggravate stress fracture to be able to identify it. Although stress fracture is associated with high impact sports, even non-athletes can have this foot condition. Risk factors can include:
- Bone Insufficiency – this condition is characterized by decreased bone density and strength making the foot susceptible to stress fracture. In athletes, it is established that females are more prone to having stress fracture than males because they are common victims of the female athlete triad; menstrual dysfunction, premature osteoporosis, and eating disorders. The result is decreased bone mass.
- Lack of Training – beginners are commonly guilty of these as they try to do activities that their bodies are not yet prepared for. This does not mean that more experienced athletes are spared from this as they can also be guilty of poor training. This focuses on the importance of preparing for intense activities. It is also possible that the change of playing surface can lead to stress fracture like in the case of training for grass courts and playing on clay courts. Vitamin D deficiency during training can also lead to stress fracture.
- Altering Foot Mechanics – when you have a technique that does not support the normal mechanics of your foot, it can result in stress fracture. A good example of this is the wrong technique of some runners increasing the way the foot absorbs the impact from the pavement or road. Foot conditions like bunions and blisters can also alter the natural mechanics of your foot because of the way body weight and pressure is handled by your feet.
- Wrong Footwear – this is perhaps the most common yet often neglected cause of stress fracture. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, worn out or flimsy shoes have little to no shock absorbing feature which can cause stress fracture. It is a good practice to replace your shoes roughly every 300 to 600 miles of use.
The common mistake is that many (especially beginners) tend to shop for brand instead of for fit. Take a walk before buying shoes so that your foot is at its widest and compensates for its expansion during exercise. Always wear the right kind of socks when fitting shoes. Never neglect the importance of a good fit, cushioning & support when shopping for shoes.